April is always an interesting time of year.
As I look out my window, the sun has climbed over the horizon to brighten another beautiful spring day. Birds are singing as they gather around the feeders for their first meal of the day. The first tiny buds are developing on the trees; signs of life are everywhere.
Unfortunately, many students won’t have the pleasure of enjoying this sight today. Heads are still on pillows after long nights of studying. It is, after all, exam season.
As a student myself for 14 years of post-secondary education, having taken far more than my fair share of exams, I’ve learned a few tricks and tips. Mostly, planning is key!
- Understand the exam you will be writing. Will it be multiple choice or short answers? Calculations or essay questions? This will fundamentally change how you will need to prepare for you test. Some question styles allow you to be familiar with concepts while others require that you have clear, concise definitions and examples ready.
- Review the course outline and notes from your first class. During the first class, your instructor discussed the goals and desired outcomes of the course. Most exams are written to test against desired skill sets and outcomes; you can easily forget the ‘purpose’ of the course after 13 busy weeks of course work. Start at the beginning.
- Understand your course and instructor. Subject matter is important, of course. However, the person crafting the exam will have certain styles and preferences that you can pick up on. Note that if it’s a large, common exam for many instructors teaching the same course, you should to try to gather this information ahead of time.
- Take care of your body and mind. Granted that during exam periods, a lot of studying will take place. It is during this time that you must pay special attention to your diet and sleep habits. Caffeine-fuelled all-nighters might seem like a bright idea, but you can hardly do this for a whole exam period. Sleep and nutrition keep you calmer and help you focus. Plus, you’ll avoid the energy spikes and crashes that inevitably come with CWC (cramming with coffee).
- Schedule everything. Yes, everything in your exam period should be scheduled, including study time, eating, and sleeping. A schedule will boost your confidence that you have sufficient space to prepare for your exams. This is not the time to take on those extra work shifts or catch up on visits with family and friends; they can all wait until you are finished your exams. Stay focused.
Remember that everyone is invested in your success!